Skip to main content

Women lured by promise of jobs 'sold as brides' for paltry Rs 50,000 in Kashmir

By Athar Parvaiz* 

It has been over a decade since 32-year-old Rafiqa (not her real name) was sold to a villager after being lured by the promise that she would be employed in the handicrafts industry of Jammu & Kashmir.
But, instead of getting a job, she was sold to a Kashmiri man in Budgam district for a paltry sum of Rs 50,000. Before the traffickers lured her, Rafiqa lived with her parents and three siblings in a poor Muslim family in West Bengal, a state in eastern India.
Ranging from Rohingya refugees -- there are an estimated 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India -- to women in other states of the country, such as West Bengal and Assam, women are trafficked and sold as brides to men who find it hard to find brides within their communities. Such grooms often include aged, physically challenged, and men with mental health issues.
Rafiqa’s husband, who drives a horse-cart for a living and lives in a one-room wooden shed, had to sell the only cow he possessed to pay the sum to the human traffickers.
She has now come to terms with “what I was destined to face in my life.” Embracing the reality, she says, was the only option left with her.
“I could have either tried to escape or taken some extreme step, but I decided to apply myself positively to make some kind of life out of what I ended up with,” Rafiqa said, while sitting at the base of the small wooden staircase of her house. “My husband’s simplicity and kind nature were also helpful in taking this decision—even though I didn’t like his appearance.”
“Now I have three kids for whom I have to live,” Rafiqa said. “I miss my parents and siblings. But it is very difficult to visit them. Even if I convince my husband, we can’t afford to visit them as it takes a lot of money to pay for the travel,” she added, saying her husband hardly provides two square meals for the family.
Rafiqa is not the only trafficked woman in that village. Over a dozen women have ended up getting married in similar circumstances. Elsewhere in the region, hundreds of other women from the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam are married to divorced and physically challenged men.
When 23-year-old Zarina (name changed), a woman from a poor family in West Bengal, got ensnared in a human trafficker’s trap, she had no idea that she would end up marrying a man whom she had never seen and was almost double her age. Zarina also fell for the false promise that a job in a carpet manufacturing unit in north Kashmir’s Patan area would be arranged for her. But, to her shock, she was sold into marriage.
“Now, how will my situation change after talking to you if it has not changed in the last five years? This is where I must be all my life,” an annoyed Zarina said, but refused to elaborate.
Some women who encounter human traffickers are far unluckier. In a village of southern Kashmir’s Anantnag district, a young Rohingya woman was sold to a family by traffickers for their son with mental health issues after she was trafficked from a Rohingya refugee makeshift camp in adjacent Jammu district.
1,061,648 women above 18 and 251,430 girls below 18 went missing during 2019-21 across India
“We were surprised when we discovered that the family has got a bride for their son who we knew was not mentally sound since his childhood,” said a neighbour of the family. “We would hear her screaming when her husband used to beat her almost every day. But fortunately for her, the young Rohingya woman was somehow able to escape after a few months.”
There are not any accurate official figures about sold brides, but some estimates say that thousands of girls and women are sold annually. The media sometimes reports the arrest of human traffickers, but such reports are not that common.
On July 26, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ajay Kumar Mishra, told the Indian parliament that 1,061,648 women above 18 years and 251,430 girls below 18 years went missing between 2019 and 2021 across different states in the country.
Mishra, however, said that most of the victims have been found and added that the Indian government has taken several initiatives for the safety of women.
In April 2022, India’s National Commission for Women launched an Anti-Human Trafficking Cell “to improve effectiveness in tackling cases of human trafficking, raising awareness among women and girls, capacity building and training of Anti Trafficking Units, and to increase the responsiveness of law enforcement agencies.”
In its 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. Department of State identifies India as a Tier 2 country. It says:
“The Government of India does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, India remained on Tier 2."  
*Source: IPS UN Bureau / Globetrotter



IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Women innovators on simple, revolutionary alternate solutions for water problems

By Proshakha Maitra, Mansee Bal Bhargava* The detrimental effects of uncontrolled population rise and accelerated change in the global climate have posed tremendous pressure on the water and sanitation. This calls all stakeholders, from both developed and developing nations, to improve their resilience and to instigate sustainability. It is more crucial than ever to optimise the use of the resources we have on hand since the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Crusader for people’s causes, this Hollywood actor entered 'unexplored zones' in US

By Harsh Thakor*  Marlon Brando on April 3rd completes his birth centenary. He perished in 2004, on July 1, aged 80 years. Arguably in Hollywood Brando penetrated sensitivity and versatility at an unparalleled scale and discovered new horizons or explored path breaking zones in acting.

Nuclear power expansion: Is AEC's new, 'unrealistic' target fully backed by PMO?

By Shankar Sharma*  Another unrealistic and tall claim by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has been announced: India is eyeing 100 GW nuclear power by 2047, the AEC chairman  AK Mohanty   has said. A few years ago, the dream target for the Indian nuclear establishment was 275,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2050 (as per DAE document of 2008 "A Strategy for the Growth of Electricity in India”). Now this target of 100 GW nuclear power by 2047. And as at the end of February 2024, the actual nuclear power capacity was only 7,480 MWe, which formed only 1.7% of the total power capacity in the country. 

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

How huge crowd at Mukhtar Ansari funeral is comparable to BJP's 'people's court' talk

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  The massive crowd at the funeral of Mukhtar Ansari in Mohammadabad reflects the power and influence that his family wields in the area. One can't deny that he had enormous power in Ghazipur and Mau districts. But the crowd that came and chanted slogans in his favour does not exonerate him of his conviction by the court.  It is important that we understand this.